Elimelech of Lezajsk
(1717-87) Tzaddik, propagator of Chasidism in Galicia, originator of the concept of tzaddikism.
Elimelech of Lezajsk studied under Shmelke Horovits of Tykocin, under whose influence he became an itinerant preacher and student of Dov-Ber of Miedzyrzecze.
He settled in Lezajsk in 1772. In 1787, he wrote his magnum opus titled Noam Elimelech (Hebrew, The Mildness of Elimelech), in which he stressed the social and religious role of the tzaddik. The popularization of these ideas had a significant impact on the development of Chasidism as a group of believers gathered around its leader and teacher.
Among Elimelech's students were Yaakov Yitzhak Halevi Horovitz of Lublin, Israel ben Shabtay Hepstein, Menachem Mendel of Rymanow (1745-1815) and Moshe Leyb of Sasow.
After Elimelech's death, his oldest son, Elazar (?-1806), became the tzaddik of Lezajsk. His younger sons founded dynasties in Chmielnik and Mogielnica. The last of the Leżajsk tzaddikim was Elazar's son, Naftali (?-1844).
Jewish folklore has preserved many stories about the adventures and amazing events linked to the tzaddikim. In Polish tradition one can also still find stories about the miracles worked by the Rebbe Elimelech, his longevity, and about how he punished the SS men for desecrating his grave during the Second World War.
Every year, pious Chasidim from all over the world come to pray at his grave.
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